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TV Critic’s Corner

BuzzFeed is making news on Netflix

A scene from the new “pop doc” series “Follow This” on Netflix.
A scene from the new “pop doc” series “Follow This” on Netflix.Netflix

Say what you will about “Vice News Tonight” (nightly at 7:30 p.m.) or its anchors’ taste in eyeglass frames, the half-hour newscast on HBO may be a little heavy with the minimalism, and a little too hot with the brand, but I’m a faithful viewer.

Each episode feels like a cluster of mini-docs, and generally eschews color and commentary in favor of context and dry factuality. It’s also conspicuously pundit-free, relying instead on blank-eyed correspondents who allow the nightly mess of the world to speak for itself. It’s a new kind of news, and one that appears to be having an impact. For one thing it just scored nine Emmy noms for news and documentary programming, leading all other nightly newscasts.

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But it also seems to have caught the attention of Netflix, which on Thursday will drop its own “pop doc” series “Follow This,” a collaboration with kitten-video-turned-hard-news-hub BuzzFeed.

In terms of packaging and pace, “Follow This” appears to share some of the Web-to-TV flavors of “Vice News Tonight,” but it packs a lot more magaziney sugar. Each episode dispatches objectively spiffy BuzzFeed reporters to cover trends and tangents in tech, social media, culture, politics, and Internet weirdos (teasers dip into everything from men’s rights activists to ASMR enthusiasts to opioid addicts).

If there is a similarity to be found between “Follow This” and Vice’s nightly batch of mini-docs, it’s the lingering self-consciousness that hangs over the production, which in Vice’s case only sometimes distracts. Each story on “Follow This” actually enacts the process of the BuzzFeed writer writing it (a technique I call “Bradshawing”).  If that doesn’t get in the way, “Follow This” may be worth a follow. Just be warned, the glasses are worse.


Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter MBrodeur.

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